Sunday, September 19, 2010

Billie remembered Lena

"Being around New York those
First few days as a jailbird
Sure separated
The sheep from the goats
As far as my friends
And colleagues were concerned.
I’ll never forget the way
They treated me.
So the first week I
Was out Bobby
Insisted on
Going to see Sarah Vaughan.
She was
Giving a concert
And Bobby
Took me backstage.
The people hanging
Around there were
The air was full of “Hi, baby”
And everybody telling me
how great I looked.
We waited for Sarah to come
Off between sets.
I was glad to see her. And I expected
She’d be glad to see me.
All I expected was a little hello—
When she came off
She turned up her nose
and walked straight by me
To her dressing room without a sign.
To get this from someone
I had worried over
And tried to help
Really hurt.

I broke down and cried.

Sarah made me wish I’d never
Left jail or worse, like
I was still in
Or carried
The bars around with me.
She tried to explain later
by telling me her husband
had told her I was hot,
just out of jail.
On the other side of the book
There were people
like Lena Horne
Who made me feel
like I’d never been away.
One of those days
when I was still hung over
From being out of jail,
I was hanging out
With John Simmons
of the
Ellington band.
John knew by ear
how I felt and tried to help.
Insisted on taking me
Down to the Strand
Lena was playing.

I was ashamed.

After my experience with
Miss Vaughan
I was naturally wary.
...didn’t want to
let myself in for
another swift
one in the stomach.
I insisted we’d sit in
The back
Of the theater
where it was dark
And just take in a rehearsal.
Somebody told Lena.
“Lady Day!”, said Lena
And that pretty little thing
Took off from that stage
Like a beautiful bird.
She came running
Down the darkened aisles
Hollering for me.
When she saw me,
She rushed up,
Took me in her arms,
hugged me, looking
At me smiling and weeping
At the same time.
“Baby darling why oh why
Didn’t you come backstage
to see me?”
“Honey, don’t you know?”
I told her.
“I’m a jailbird.”
“Don’t you say that!”
she exclaimed.
“You’ve been sick
and away for a little while,
that’s all.”
Then she took me by the hand
Back to her dressing room.
After the first show took
took me out with her
and bought me lunch
And we had a
wonderful schmooze
About the old days
In Hollywood
When they gave her
a bad time
Making this picture
“Stormy Weather”.
Ethel Waters had been
the star of it.
We talked about all this
and more,

And I was so happy I cried.

People like Lena
Took the sting out of other little people."

From "Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

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